I’m a 20 something with a college degree. Now what?

At every stage in formal education, we are told we are being prepared for the next step. Elementary school prepares you for middle school, middle school for high school, high school for college, and college for the big time – the real world. Everything we are taught is meant to prepare us for the next big jump in our lives. I spent each step right along with all of my classmates getting ready for what would ultimately become our “real lives”. I finished elementary school. I finished middle school. After what seemed like forever, I graduated from high school. Then I took the natural next step and went to spend the next four years of my life in college where I double majored and earned two degrees before I graduated in May 2015. I did it. High school diploma? Check. College degree(s)? Check. I am officially higher educated. Sooooo now what?

It’s been a year and a half since my college graduation and I have had four different jobs, all of which I hated and none of which had anything to do with the four years and thousands of dollars I spent on my college education. So now, at 23 years old, I am a nanny making $12 per hour and I have to wonder…is this the “big time” I spent 17 years in school preparing for? Is this what all of my hard work amounts to? 

Now I have heard all of the anecdotes, read all of the celebrity memoirs saying that they weren’t anywhere near their goals at my age. And I have to hope that those anecdotes will someday be ones that I can tell my own children. However, we live in a world that is increasingly difficult to be a twenty-something in. 

As we grew up, we were told the only way we would ever get a “real” job is to get a college degree. Without one, we would never go anywhere in our lives, right? Well, here I am with two degrees and the same kind of job I had at fourteen years old. That college degree was supposed to be my golden ticket. It was supposed to open up the doors to my future. Every job that I apply to, even ones I don’t really want, is labeled entry level so naturally I think, “Great! That’s me! I’m entry level!” But upon further investigation, these jobs almost always require three years experience minimum. Oh. So not entry level? Because that’s definitely not me. I end up applying to all the same jobs people with only  high school educations are applying to. 

My sister, who is a year younger than me, opted not to go to college. She didn’t think it was worth it. More and more often I find myself wondering if she made the better choice. She has a job she loves making good money with plenty of opportunity for upward movement and just recently bought a house. She seems to be excelling at this twenty-something gig we’re stuck with. I always worried about her lack of a college degree for her future, but now I’m thinking maybe she had the right idea after all. 

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved my college experience. I made the best friends I will ever have. I learned to live on my own (and loved every second). I learned how to hold my liquor and how to enjoy a friday or saturday night no matter what I was doing as long as I had my best friends with me. 

I learned more about real life from the college experience and the people I spent it with than I ever did in my actual college classes. In that respect, college is an irreplaceable, priceless expense. But that isn’t the reason we are so pressured to get that degree. 

In terms of my classes, sure I learned stuff but at the end of all of the papers, late night study sessions, and trash cans filled with k-cup pods, I got a very expensive piece of paper and a handshake from my university president. I didn’t get the guaranteed job everyone told me I would get. I still eat mac and cheese on a regular basis. I am now a poor college student without the excuse of actually being in college. 

Most of the time, I am very grateful for the years I spent getting a higher education. Some days though, I wonder if I would be closer to my dreams had I chosen not to go. I get the question a lot about whether or not I feel like I am better off with a college education and honestly, I don’t have an answer. I loved college very much but now I’m $50,000 in debt and barely getting by financially. So if you ask me and I don’t give you the answer you were looking for, ask again tomorrow. Chances are my anwer will have changed.

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I’m a 20 something with a college degree. Now what?

Think Twice Before You Use the “S” Word

I have learned a lot about myself over the past two years. More than I had learned in all of the twenty one-ish years prior to that combined. One of the biggest and most recent discoveries I have made is that my most used four-letter-word isn’t a four letter word at all. It is five letters and that word is “sorry”. I have spent a good majority of my life apologizing.

Sometimes because I caused someone some amount of pain or because I made a mistake. Those kinds of apologies have been and always will be warranted and necessary. Those kinds of apologies mend relationships, alleviate someone else’s pain, allow me to own and accept my mistakes.

There are the kinds of apologies that are just simply me being overly and ridiculously polite. For example, I find myself apologizing to inanimate objects when I run into them and hurt myself. I apologize to random people in the grocery store who run into me because obviously I was in their way and saying excuse me was too much work. These seemingly harmless apologies are usually just that, harmless. Pointless really, but they cause no harm.

But then there are the apologies I am famous for; the kind that belittle and demean me as a person. These are the apologies I give for being who and how I am. These are the apologies I am making a conscious effort to do away with. I am constantly apologizing for having anxiety and for the attacks it creates. I am constantly apologizing for wanting to talk about the things I am feeling with the people I love too often. I am always apologizing for texting people more than the socially acceptable amount of times in a row. I am constantly apologizing for loving too hard, too much, too strongly, for wanting to show the people I love how much I love them. I am constantly apologizing to people when they hurt me. This last one is the most important one.

So here’s the story: Someone hurts you, a friend, a family member, or a significant other. You tell them that they have hurt you expecting an apology in return. Instead, they make you feel bad that you are even telling them that you are hurt. I mean, how could you be so selfish? It’s bad enough that you are in pain but now you have to make them feel bad too? How inconsiderate of you. And so now, you apologize. Now you are distraught. You are so sorry that you have hurt them. And you know, if they don’t think they’ve hurt you, maybe they didn’t after all. Maybe it is you who is overreacting and you should probably console them now for making them go through the pain you have put them through in accusing them of hurting you. 

But wait. See what just happened? Now you are giving the apology you should be getting and they have neither acknowledged that they have hurt you nor apologized for having done so. But you feel like something happened just then right? Like something was resolved? Now here’s the part that I love. Nothing happened. You are in the same place that you started in and they have still hurt  you. Only now, they’ve hurt you and they’ve made you feel bad about it. Funny how that worked huh?

I do this. I do this every day and I am apalled at how it has become almost second nature for me to fall into that place with someone. I apologize to people because they have caused me pain and I feel bad because they feel bad about having hurt me. Well, not anymore. 

I have learned two things  from discovering the “sorry” word. One, do not ever ever ever apologize for who you are. If someone else doesn’t like who you are, if you come on too strongly, if you annoy them, if they don’t accpet you as is, then who cares? Chances are, if you really think about it, you don’t like who they are as a person either if they act that way with you. And here’s the best part: that is perfectly, 100% okay. Everyone will never like everyone. That’s just the way the world turns, darling.

The second, and to me, far more important thing, is that when someone hurts you they do not get to tell you that they didn’t. They do not get to say that you are wrong. If someone hurts you, they owe you an apology for having hurt you even if they didn’t do it intentionally or knowingly. No one gets to tell you when you are and are not hurt.

So from now on, I would like you to pay attention. I would like you to think twice before using that five letter word and to think three times before letting someone weasel their way out of using it to you. 

Think Twice Before You Use the “S” Word